Southern Utah University opens its 2011 home football season Saturday when the Thunderbirds host No. 12 Sacramento State at 1 p.m. in Eccles Coliseum.
For the second straight week, the Thunderbirds will be playing a team with whom they were formerly conference foes. Last week’s opponent, South Dakota State, and SUU were charter members of the Great West Football Conference, while the Thunderbirds vs. Sacramento State will be a case of “Back to the Future,” as the Thunderbirds and Hornets competed in the same conference from the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s (The Western Football Conference, which became the American West Conference), and SUU will join Sacramento State in the Big Sky next year.
Southern Utah (0-1/0-0 Great West) is coming off a 29-28 road loss at South Dakota State.
The Thunderbirds drew first blood in the game, taking a 7-0 lead on a pass from Brad Sorensen to Daryl Brown, but the Jackrabbits took advantage of a short passing game and several SUU mistakes to score 29 straight to take a 22-point advantage into the fourth quarter. Erron Vonner returned an interception 31 yards for a score and Sorensen threw a pair of TD passes to rally the Thunderbirds in the fourth quarter, the second going to Jared Ursua with just two seconds remaining to play. Faced with the option of going for a two-point conversion and the win or a one-pointer and a tie, the T-Birds went for the win but Sorensen’s pass was knocked from Brown’s hands, spoiling the comeback bid.
Sacramento State (1-0/0-0 Big Sky) opened its season with a huge upset, outlasting Oregon State in week one, 29-28 in overtime. After falling behind 3-0, the Hornets went up 14-3 on a pair of Jeff Fleming to Chase Deadder TD passes, and extended their advantage to 21-6 when WR Morris Norrise found fellow wideout Brandyn Reed for a 39-yard score. The Beavers rallied in the fourth quarter, however, scoring 15 points on a pair of short runs and a 2-point conversion, and regulation play ended with the teams tied at 21. Oregon State got the ball first and scored a touchdown, but CSUS answered with a Fleming-to-Reed scoring toss, then stunned the Beavers with another Fleming-to-Reed hookup for the 2-point conversion.